Which Ride Will "Win"?

It should be an interesting Winter, with both rides attempting to attract riders. I believe that tradition will carry more weight than disatisfaction over editorial decisions, and RAGBRAI will continue to be successful.

107 Replies

Sunflower, October 18, 2019 at 12:44 am

PBV doesn’t have 4000 riders. There haven’t been 10k riders on RAGBRAI in decades. The number is 20k.

Iowa’s Ride site shows about 8k likes and follows. That’s easily enough to make it work.

I agree with Jboz at a 110% level. My opinion is that its way, way overdue to shake the box. We can rationalize our opinions all we want but I think we’re mostly just dealing with different temperaments and aesthetics here.

It strikes me as quite appropriate that PBV sticks with the Register and the Iowa Bike Coalition goes with TJ. One group likes their tent set up for them. The other might not even bring a tent. The difference between those aesthetics is enormous and I’m not sure there’s a real affinity between them.

1,000’s of riders ride “away” from the crush of humanity. Some are a day ahead, some a day behind and if you’ve ever driven the route at 11pm coming back from a Pizza Ranch in the previous overnight town (don’t ask, please) you know that HUNDREDS of riders, many not totally shitfaced, are out there with full lights in organized groups. We all enjoy this in our own way and sometimes those ways have basically nothing in common. These people ride away from the group because THEY DON’T WANT TO RIDE WITH THE GROUP. That’s not me, but I can appreciate where they are coming from. The register would pick up close to zero of those riders were the ride to split in two.

If there were two rides you could count the number of “baggers” on the DSM’s ride on the fingers of one hand, for example.

Jboz also brings up cancel culture. For those of you who want a politics free zone, well, that ship has sailed. He’s right that people on both sides of the isle see this as destructive. Coming together to stop this cancerous behavior is important to me. The fact that you want to avoid politics was, but is no longer important to me. Deal with it. I don’t buy the editor’s schtick for a minute. Low rent and a monetary penalty must be extracted.

As for TJ acting precipitously….16 years of rock solid performance. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. I’ve always resented how he has shortened the ride but I’m aware that I don’t have all the facts so I shut up and ride my bike. I’m going to do the same here. As far as the morality of his actions…..you’ve got to be kidding me. Its a goddamn bike ride.

Tony’s comments need to be taken seriously, he’s worked in media and RAGBRAI. He’s suggesting that TJ has a really toxic corporate environment to work in while we get to ride our bikes in the sun. That’s got to grind a guy’s gears after a while. He wants what we think of as the RAGBRAI experience for himself as the organizer. Can’t blame the guy. I’d like someone to be able to organize a big ride in Iowa and not have to associate with people whose judgement is as poor as Gannett’s when it comes to Iowan culture. We’re just deplorables to them. For this ride to represent Iowa there can’t be a New Yorker involved in decision making. They’re just not up to it.



“Bicycle Bill”, October 18, 2019 at 1:24 am

The ride that will win will be the one that best captures the flavor of the original RAGBRAI as John Karras and Donald Kaul first approached it — “We’re going to ride our bikes across Iowa and write stories for the newspaper about it.  If you want to tag along, fine; but the Register is doing this for US; you’re on your own.”

As RAGBRAI stands now, with the Register having ‘Big Brother’-like control over all licensing, marketing, trademarks, and other dealings and the proliferation of ‘services-for-hire’ groups like PBV, Bubba’s, and some of the other quasi-teams and their ‘country club/members-only’ approach to the ride, it’s a far, far cry from the way I remember it.


StevenLawyer, October 18, 2019 at 6:28 am

The one thing that soured me was TJ’s sending of an email blasting the DMR AND ALL BUT ANNOUNCING THE COMPETING RIDE using the DMR’s Ragbrai email list and email address. I’m fine with him making a competing ride. I believe TJ when he says he did the work to prepare it on his own time. But I’m not okay with him using the Register’s Ragbrai communication apparatus to give the DMR a figurative finger and announce his competing ride on the way out the door.


Sunflower, October 18, 2019 at 7:21 am

Life is a contact sport. I, like many other people, are tired of playing by The Marquess of Queensberry Rules with people of low moral fiber. If its clean legally at least we’re playing with the Jungle Rules too.

They drew first blood, not me.


Ken Reed, October 18, 2019 at 8:41 am

[quote quote=1311930]There is a fairly comprehensive interview with TJ here https://kxno.iheart.com/content/2019-10-16-former-ragbrai-director-discusses-resignation-and-new-ride/

So much is unknown at this point. DMR is spinning hard, but I am not 100% sure of the wisdom of TJ’s decisions.[/quote]

This was not a good interview for TJ. It did not instill confidenece in his outfit. It made me actually switch from his side back to RAGBRAI. It raised more questions than it actually answered.


Sunflower, October 18, 2019 at 8:45 am

There’s another factor afoot here that nobody has yet mentioned. Its well known in marketing that even successful brand sponsorships have a negative ROI after some length of time. Its not that the brand has gone bad but there is no advantage to pouring money into anymore. You see these shakeups in the TDF, for example.

The people at Gannett know this. After putting themselves between Carson King and sick kids the local management has become a liability in an endeavor that probably can’t be justified by the CFO. For them this is just a time-wasting distraction and their industry has been bleeding from every orifice for years.

They’re going to leave us alone with our “red plastic basket full of deep fried cod and our can of Falstaff.”


RDaryl Daryl, October 18, 2019 at 9:09 am

One of the comments in the radio interview related to statements from riders that they would participate in the future, but would not register for the ride because they did not want to fund the DMR.
As a result, there would be less funding for police, ambulance, staff, planning, charity, and DMR profit. Although bandits state that they spend much money during the ride and make it to be the experience that it is, they fail to acknowledge the costs of planning and logistics of the event.
On another note, it is good to hear that the Karras-Kaul founders statue has been fully funded.


BarryTantlinger, October 18, 2019 at 11:20 am

I think something that gets lost is that there are lot of out of state riders and the King/DMR story doesn’t have a lot of national traction. I think I scanned through one article on Deadspin a few weeks ago, but didn’t connect it to the DMR or Ragbrai.

I only heard about TJ’s defection because someone sent me an article. Without that prompt, I probably wouldn’t think about the ride until the route announcement party. I suspect many out of staters are the same. We’re going to do what we always do – look at the route, sign up, and ride. We’re not going to seek TJ out.


KenH, October 18, 2019 at 11:54 am

TJ may or may not have had a contract with the Register. He is the big fish to us riders but corporately speaking people at his level don’t commonly have contracts. It is usually only top tier managers that have been hired away from competitors that have contracts. But he may have had one and if he violated its terms he will have to face the consequences. Things like this used to be common in my industry and most typically people are hired away by a competitor who then pays any penalties that are due. TJ says he has sponsors, will they pony up for that?

However, even a low level flunky like me is bound by conditions laid out in employment agreements that we have to sign when we are hired. It would be astounding if TJ were not bound by something similar. We can’t know what the terms are and he may not have violated them but surely there are some. I have, for example, signed an agreement stating that I will not use sensitive company information to help a competitor if I leave. I must not work for a competitor while I am employed and I must report to my employer any non-competitive work I do outside of hours for their review. And if I leave I must not take any fellow employees with me for a year. I actually did help my new employer steal a friend from my old employer a few years ago but that happened outside the exclusion window so I was OK.


Ben There, October 18, 2019 at 11:55 am

I don’t ride as a supporter, or a defender of Des Moines Register editorial views. It is a bike ride and a great social event. I appreciate the Register for supporting this event and hope it lives on as Ragbrai, which will always be the real bike ride across Iowa. (Real Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa ?) no matter what the new trademarked “Iowa’s ride” turns out to be. TJ and crew showed lack of class and ethics in their departure, after planning their new ride using Ragbrai’s information and resources.


skb-mpls, October 18, 2019 at 12:30 pm

TJ could potentially have legal exposure if he is using his pre-ride work while an employee of the DMR (lining up overnight towns using the rider email list etc…) and now taking it to his new firm. I’m sure the DMR is looking into that now. Hmmm why did TJ choose the northern route? Betting money is that RAGBRAI would choose a northern route this year.

For me there are hundreds of rides around the world to choose from. The appeal of RAGBRAI is the large crowd of riders and bikes, the hospitality and excitement of the small town residents and the events that they put on, fun atmosphere – and NOT the scenery. (I think I can get by with that having grown up in central Iowa) I tell my friends that I am going to go on RAGBRAI – they say what is that? Well, it’s the largest and longest running bike tour in the world. To dilute that or eliminate the near 50 yr RAGBRAI legacy by TJ creating a seperate ride (under un-ethical terms in my opinion) will make me think twice about going on TJ’s ride and choose another ride.


Ryan D, October 18, 2019 at 12:53 pm

I once remarked about the lack of scenery around Iowa to my father-in-law. He responded very succinctly: “There’s beauty there if you look.” He has since gone on to heaven. My first ragbrai was this past season, and boy was he right.


Sandaltan ., October 18, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Beebs: Yes, the Milwaukee Sentinel put on the first SAGBRAW…Sentinel’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Wisconsin. The newspaper patterned their ride after RAGBRAI and ran it for a few years. Then Wheel and Sprocket took over the ride and it became Sprocket’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Wisconsin. Then Eric and Kathy Schramm took the ride and the S now represented Schramm. A couple years ago the Schramms sold their bike rides to Bob Layton of Bicycle Illinois. I wonder if the Schramms have sent their bicycling resume to the newspaper? I have ridden with them half dozen times and enjoyed their company when we met them up in Michigan once. Nice people. One of their rides was particularly memorable starting in your town, LaCrosse.



Jboz, October 18, 2019 at 2:32 pm

1) The RAGBRAI community hasn’t been “destroyed”. Hyperbole. If RAGBRAI has been damaged, you can’t lay this at TJ’s feet. The DMR’s actions are certainly subject to examination as a contributing factor…maybe the primary factor.
2) The original intent the DMR had by disclosing the old tweets was not honest journalism, but instead it was an attempt to ignite the internet’s favorite new bloodsport, a public shaming feeding frenzy. They underestimated the public’s growing disgust of “cancel culture”, and it backfired on them.
3) Instead of following King’s lead of admitting to one’s mistakes and atoning, they circled the corporate wagons and muzzled their employees, thus stripping away RAGBRAI’s autonomy as a stand-alone entity.
4) One of the two entities will survive, the other will learn a hard lesson. Difficult to say how it will play out, but it will play out. For 2020 and beyond as long as people want to ride their bikes across Iowa, there WILL be an annual bike ride across Iowa (which is good), and maybe two (which could also be good).


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